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Panthers take fifth at final GNAC tournament

October 29, 2017 GMT

The Norfolk volleyball Panthers did not win a championship in their final year in the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference, but they did end their tenure in the conference in strong fashion.

The Panthers won their final two matches of the GNAC Tournament Saturday to capture fifth place in the tournament at Norfolk High School. After losing its first match Saturday to No. 3 seed McCook 22-25, 25-20, 25-22, sixth-seeded Norfolk downed No. 7 Lexington 25-9, 25-14 and fifth-seeded Columbus 25-16, 25-10 to finish fifth at the tournament.

“I think that the girls really came out ready to play today,” Norfolk coach Katie Wright said. “We saw a team effort in all three of our matches. Obviously we’re sad to see the GNAC go, but we’re also looking forward to joining the HAC. This was a good conference for Norfolk and I think it was a great fit for our team — but we are excited to head to the HAC.”

Norfolk will be joining the Heartland Athletic Conference next year, as will GNAC Tournament Kearney. The top-seeded Bearcats won the tournament title by downing McCook 25-14, 25-15 in the finals.

In the fifth-place match against Columbus, the Panthers got early leads and made them stand up.

After winning the first set, Norfolk scored the first eight points of the second set behind a pair of aces from Kyla Moore and three kills from Taylor Stolz, who later added three aces to stretch the Panthers’ lead to 17-3.

“We talked about setting miniature goals — first to five (points), first to 10, first to 15,” Wright said. “Twenty-five points is a long game, and a lot of times we’re even with teams until the last five points. We talked about doing games to five and how we can execute and start out right away. I think we saw that within our girls. I think they knew what they needed to do and they really showed up for us.”

Alex Ruth later closed out the set — and the match — with a kill, adding an exclamation point to a strong Saturday by the junior middle blocker.

“When we can get her to be fearless at the net — to go up and swing and not worry about blockers on the other side — that’s when we’ll really see her confidence level rise,” Wright said. “She came in really in clutch.”

Saturday’s win also gave Norfolk the edge in the season series with Columbus. The two schools had split a pair of matches earlier in the season.

“I think the rivalry does help and I think we do tend to play really well against Columbus,” Wright said. “We did see that today.”

The Panthers (10-26) begin district play Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. against Kearney at Pius X High School in Lincoln. The winner will play either Pius X or Omaha South for the district championship at 7 p.m.

Norfolk defeats Columbus

25-16, 25-10

NORFOLK (10-26): Jordyn Thompson 3a, 14d; Kyla Moore 2k, 3a, 8d; Alex Ruth 6k, 3b, 4d; Alex Ruth 4k, 1a, 1b, 8d; Saydee Mittlestadt 1k, 1b; Anden Baumann 1a, 1d, 8s; Brooke Hekrdle 1d, 12s; Taylor Stolz 7k, 4a, 1b; Gabby Ruth 2k, 2b, 3d; Jalen Hoffman 1k, 1b, 3d; Leah Petty 6d.

COLUMBUS: Stats not available.

Norfolk defeats Lexington

25-9, 25-14

NORFOLK: Jordyn Thompson 5a, 8d, 1s; Kyla Moore 1k, 1a, 6d, 1s; Alex Ruth 4k, 1a, 1b, 8d; Saydee Mittlestadt 2b; Anden Baumann 1d, 7s; Brooke Hekrdle 1k, 4d, 11s; Taylor Stolz 7k, 2b, 5d; Gabby Ruth 4k, 1d; Jalen Hoffman 4k; ; Leah Petty 2d; Karly Kalin 1d; Emily Schwanebeck 1k.

LEXINGTON: Stats not available.

McCook defeats Norfolk

22-25, 25-20, 25-22

NORFOLK: Jordyn Thompson 31d, 3s; Kyla Moore 9k, 1b, 13d, 3s; Alex Ruth 7k, 2b, 7d; Saydee Mittlestadt 2k, 2b, 2d; Anden Baumann 2k, 3a, 8d, 7s; Brooke Hekrdle 1k, 7d, 15s; Taylor Stolz 3k, 1a, 1b, 2d; Gabby Ruth 7k; Jalen Hoffman 4k, 1b, 1d; Leah Petty 4d, 1s.

McCOOK: Stats not available.

GNAC Volleyball Tournament

First round

No. 1 Kearney defeats No. 8 Scottsbluff 25-13, 25,11

No. 2 Hastings defeats No. 7 Lexington 25-20, 25-21

No. 3 McCook defeats No. 6 Norfolk 22-25, 25-20, 25-22

No. 4 North Platte deats No. 5 Columbus 25-14, 25-14

Semifinals

Kearney defeats North Platte 25-19, 24-26, 25-10

McCook defeats Hastings 25-22, 25-18

Consolation semifinals

Columbus defeats Scottsbluff 25-19, 25-18

Norfolk defeats Lexington 25-9, 25-14

Championship

Kearney defeats McCook 25-14, 25-15

Third place

Hastings defeats North Platte 27-25, 25-21

Fifth place

Norfolk defeats Columbus 25-16, 25-10

Seventh place

Lexington defeats Scottsbluff 25-15, 25-18